Assessing the role of local institutions in participatory development: The case of Khwee and Sehunong settlements in Botswana

Keneilwe Molosi- France, Kenneth Dipholo


Many governments in Africa give priority to rural development mainly because a significant proportion of their populations live in the rural areas where poverty is severe. Thus, one of the goals of rural development is to address the problem of poverty in the rural areas with an emphasis on promoting participation of people in decisions that affect them. The Village Development Committee (VDC) is a village-level institution that is responsible for ensuring that the community actively participates in the development process in order to promote grassroot development. Essentially, VDCs have been established to offer a forum for community engagement in the processes that concern their development with a view to promote a sense of responsibility, commitment and ownership by the community. This discussion is informed by a qualitative study that used semi-structured interviews to gather data. Two findings pertaining to the weak role of the VDC and unequal power relations are seen to be hindering community participation. As such, this paper argues that VDCs in Khwee and Sehunong settlements do not serve their intended purpose of engaging the community as other stakeholders pay lip service to community participation, hence not fully involving the VDC. The paper recommends that the Government of Botswana as the main stakeholder in national development, including the development of San communities, should commit to genuine community participation, while on the other hand the San should be empowered so that they can embrace and demand to be involved in their own development.


rural development; poverty; Village Development Committees; Khwee; Sehunong; participatory development theory

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Submitted: 21 June 2017
Published: 02 October 2017

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